For this WiS discussion, Marion invited Clementine Munro and Joanna Tate to talk about surveying in the United Arab Emirates.
Joanna Tate is an RICS Registered Valuer for Colliers in Abu Dhabi, providing residential real estate valuations for banks, asset managers, companies, and individuals. Most of her valuations are for secured lending purposes (mortgages or re-mortgages). Her favourite valuations are the complex ones, the ones with no comparable evidence, the real head-scratchers. She loves it when every day is different and never knows what’s going to come up next.
Clementine Munro is Associate Director – International Residential Sales for Savills in the Middle East and is based in Dubai. She is passionate about knowing her communities and providing experienced advice on the neighbourhoods in Dubailand.
Adjusting to the Culture in UAE
Clementine and Joanna reflect on the difficulties and joys of moving around and meeting new people at work.
“I came here with my now ex-husband, and he had been in the Navy,” Joanna says, “so we had moved around a lot. He left the Navy and we had three options. We decided to come here. I came here 13 and a half years ago. After about five months, I got a little bit bored. So I thought, what can I do? I got into real estate, into leasing at the time, and I really enjoyed it.”
“It’s been massively difficult at times,” Clementine shares. “Whilst I now just cover Kuwait, I have spent time all around the Gulf Saudi back when you still had to wear Abaya. You change on the plane and make sure that you are fully covered when you land.”
“It’s definitely challenging acclimatising to a completely different way of living and working,” she says. “Even just travelling within the region has felt really alien at some time. But one thing that residents of this part of the world are known for is hospitality. Certainly, the locals that I interact with are hugely hospitable.”
Real Estate Markets and Regulations in the UAE
Joanna and Clementine continue talking about the maturity of the real estate market and regulations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“There are no home buyer surveys,” Joanna says. “In Abu Dhabi, for example, ex-pats have only been able to buy their homes since 2000. The first buildings were not ready for occupation until 2012. It’s still quite immature, in terms of when you compare somewhere like the UK, where you’ve got houses going back hundreds of years.”
“We have green certification in Abu Dhabi,” Joanna continues. “We have our own Estidama, which is Arabic for sustainability. Whether it’s a villa compound, whether it’s an 80-storey building, they all have to pass the Estidama certification and have achieved at least one pole rating. It goes from one to five.”
“Dubai, it’s fair to say, is a slightly more mature market,” Clementine explains. “We have more established residential communities, maybe on a slightly more American model. We have an authority called RERA, which is a Real Estate Regulation Agency. That’s big infrastructure – everything from inspection, building quality, as well as instead of Stamp Duty Land Tax we pay something called Dubai Land Department fee.”
“That’s another challenge we have,” she continues. “Speaking confidently, knowing the secrecy between your markets, because you might be dealing with wealth. You might be dealing with purchases by clients from different parts of the Gulf. It is important to make sure that you understand the buying goals and the transaction differences between each area.”
Being Female Surveyors in the United Arab Emirates
Both Clementine and Joanna agree that the support they’re getting from their female network is absolutely critical to building confidence.
“I think Joanna would definitely agree there aren’t many female surveyors out here,” Clementine says. “’I’m actually on maternity leave at the moment. The support that I’ve had, particularly from the female network within my business has been phenomenal. It really assured me that it’s okay to still want to work. From a HR point of view, however, Dubai is not massive on diversity and inclusion.”
“I don’t actually know that many surveyors altogether,” Joanna continues. “I know a few in Abu Dhabi. Before COVID, a lot more networking went on, and we probably need to start up again,” she concludes.
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